Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bespelling Jane Austen

Not your grandmother’s Harlequin. 

Writers (or an aspiring writer like myself) are constantly advised to read outside our genres, to get a broader literary experience to help our writing.  I’ve tried to read Jane Austen’s works, but I tire after the first few pages, when some puzzling Lady Dunsbury appears, and it turns out to be Hilda’s sister-in-law from a couple pages before.  It’s just not worth the effort. 

But now I’m reading Bespelling Jane Austen, a collection of four novellas.  I’m going through them out of order, but I’ll tell you what, Colleen Gleason’s Northanger Castle is eminently readable, with sufficient period detail to give the feel of a leaner, meaner, Austen-ish kind of tale. 

Those of you Austen-philes can guess this story is about a young woman who reads trashy novels and tends to fantasize melodramatic backgrounds for the people around her.  At Bath, she picks out a man with dark eyes and fair skin.  “If he were indeed a vampire, she must take care not to look directly at him.  According to what she’d learned, the undead were known for being able to enthrall a mortal being with their eyes alone.” 

The twist with these reimaginings is such suspicions might be true.  This was well worth the price for Colleen Gleason’s story alone.  

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